Anyone who has read this column in times past knows there’s usually a lot of nonsense going on in this space, much foul-mouthed ranting about drinking and sports and celebrities and other insignificant crap. But this week, we’re setting aside the bullshit. Because Real Life has reared her ugly head, and She can be a real bitch when She sets her mind to it.
If you patronize local music on a regular basis in Knoxville, you’ve probably heard of the Coveralls. Lifelong friends, the members of the band have been playing together in one configuration or another for 20 years, and as the Coveralls proper for 13. You could argue that they’re not the best-known and best-loved party rock outfit in town, but you would probably wouldn’t, because it sucks to be wrong.
The band’s longtime guitar player is a talented guy named Chris Canada; besides the Coveralls, he’s played in more local bands than he can easily remember, The Uptown Bogarts and Big Bad Jukebox and his current, eponymous project, the Chris Canada Jazz Trio, etc.. But better than all that, Chris is the proud father of Hugo Canada, an elfin little blonde guy with Anime-sized blue eyes.
Hugo celebrated his first year on the planet in June. The day after his first-ever birthday party, his parents noticed blood in his diaper. They took him to a local hospital for tests; for their diligence, they were rewarded with the kind of news that every parent prays they’ll never hear.
Hugo was diagnosed with something called Atypical Teratoid Rhabdoid Tumor, or AT/RT. AT/RT is a rare form of cancer, usually found in very small children, and it can manifest in many areas of the body; Hugo was found to have several growths, both in his lungs and on his kidney.
AT/RT is an aggressive, merciless affliction. So much so that doctors are often forced to treat it with radiation, in addition to surgery and chemotherapy—in spite of the fact that radiation is generally considered too dangerous for toddler-aged kids. The survival rate for children of Hugo’s age afflicted with AT/RT is somewhere between 11 and 17 percent, depending on how you interpret the double-talk that passes for explication in medical literature.
For Hugo, there has been good news of late, though even that has been tempered by some less heartening events, brutal reminders of the severity of his ravaging illness.
The good news is that after a round of chemotherapy, the tumors in his lungs have disappeared, meaning that his prognosis is better than it was at the start, by a considerable margin. Next up is a trip to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital in September, where Hugo will undergo a nephrectomy, to remove the cancerous kidney, and have his stem cells collected for future deployment; they will be used to strengthen him during the enervating rounds of chemo to come.
What’s troubling is that, even with the positive results, the little man is having a rough time of it. On August 29, according to his mother’s updates on the GoHugoCanada Facebook page, he was admitted to East Tennessee Children’s Hospital with a fever and mouth sores.
What does all this mean for the rest of us? Well, it means plenty. First, know that the good energy you project, whether it be in the form of prayers, meditations, or simple well-wishes, can accomplish a great deal, more than any of us will ever comprehend, at least on this side of the Veil. Call it God or Dharma or the Flying Spaghetti Monster, or just one of the many dark mysteries of quantum physics our limited human intelligence has yet to unravel, but simply believe that, for good or ill, we all help create the Reality we live in, in ways both profound and simple.
Next—and this is where the rubber meets the road, Jake—know that the Canada family needs help. Thanks to a publicist friend of the band, the effort to aid the Canadas has launched in stellar fashion, through a viral campaign featuring celebrities, politicians, and plenty of us normal folk, too, holding up “Go Hugo” signs in digital photos, not unlike the Ice Bucket Challenge currently making the rounds virally on behalf of ALS.
So far, the list of Go Hugo celebs includes Liv Tyler, U.S. Congressman Jimmy Duncan, Toby Keith, and Vince Gill and more, all of them viewable on the aforementioned Facebook page. You can go to the page and upload your own Go Hugo photos there, as well as leave messages for the family. There’s also a fundraising link, where you can make donations for the Canadas’ mounting medical bills.
In the meanwhile, there are a number of benefit shows and events upcoming, including a Coveralls performance on Sept. 12 at Preservation Pub. Also on tap is a big Go Hugo multi-band event at the Bijou Theatre on Oct. 2, featuring fellow cover-band rockers the Dead Ringers, the most excellent King Super and the Excellents, long-running Talking Heads tributeers Same As It Ever Was, and a host of other guest-starring local musicians and artists, plus a raffle and other goodies. Tickets are available through Ticketmaster at the Bijou website.
And that is all there is to say for now, other than to remind all of you to hold the Canadas dear in your hearts and minds. Because it doesn’t matter how much time any of us have been given, Jake. It matters what we do with it while we’re here.